The lesson plans are methodically laid out with alternate ideas and I know what needs to get done. I have plans for my kids, students, and therapy. I take my plans seriously because parents are investing time and money in my services. Even with my plans, there are opportunities I miss when plans become more important than reaching the heart of the people I serve.
One day, due to a scheduling issue, time was short with a student. I needed to nail our plans and in record time. First on the list: reading a section from the student’s current “for fun” reading book. The main character of the book had to fill out a form with what word best describes her. She listed people in her life and said what word they would give her. After reading the passage, we did that for the student. Most of her comments were “I don’t know,” or “no clue”, but one stood out; the word beautiful.
The big moment came when I asked her what word(s) she would give herself. Her words were all negative.
I seized the opportunity. I told her I didn’t see her that way and that the things we tell ourselves come across in what words we give ourselves. I told her what word I would give her now and what word I would’ve given her last year. After we discussed those, I asked her what word God would give her. I reminded her that he didn’t see her as stupid, weird, or silly. He loves her so much he sent his son to die for her. That’s pretty special.
This opportunity took less than 15 minutes. I pray the positive words are cemented on her heart and the negative ones will lose their power. Here are some ways I ensure that I don’t miss intentional teaching opportunities.
Prepare each day to be aware of opportunities that are waiting for you to notice
As a part of my quiet time, I now pray for today’s intentional opportunities and journal about yesterdays. Knowing I will journal about them makes me want to find them – daily.
“Don’t those who plan evil go astray? But those who plan good find loyalty and faithfulness.” Proverbs 14:22
Choose People Over Plans
I recently spoke to a man from another country. He told me that we are so busy. He is from a place where a lunch with a friend can last until the evening meal. People talk for long hours. The community is strong. People take priority over plans. So many things on our to-do list can wait, if we decide it’s okay to be flexible. Spending time with a friend isn’t wasted. It’s an investment.
Pray for the Right Opportunities
Not every conversation is the opportunity of the day. Not every day has an outward opportunity. Yet, every day does have an inward opportunity to pray for people. Pray through each encounter and listen for the voice of God to whisper or prod your heart about giving encouragement, offering prayer, or going deeper. If this is a new concept, it takes some adjustment, but with practice and prayer, you will notice the prodding of the Spirit.
Teaching good, moral lessons is important, but lessons for the heart taught in the moment are effective. We need to slow down and allow the Spirit to guide us in these lessons.